Leaders of Boston’s black community said Wednesday they hope the resignation of the Boston Latin School headmaster provides a “fresh start” for civic leaders to confront what they say are racial problems in schools across the city.
The coalition of leaders said at a news conference that while they were satisfied with the resignation of Lynne Mooney Teta, it does not mark an end to the controversy at the city’s top exam school. They still are awaiting results of ongoing investigations at the school, which they hope will place responsibility on other administrators handling the school’s racial incidents.
The leaders met at the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts offices in Roxbury, and included members of the Urban League, The New Democracy Coalition and Black Educators’ Alliance of Massachusetts. They urged the city to create a comprehensive plan to address racial diversity within the staff, student base, and administration in Boston’s public schools.
“This is an unfortunate moment,” said Kevin Peterson, the director of New Democracy Coalition. “An environment of racial hostility has existed within the Boston Latin School.”
Darnell Williams, the president and CEO of the Urban League division, said that all city leaders, including Superintendent Tommy Chang and Mayor Martin J. Walsh, should be held accountable for racial inequity in public schools.
Williams also denied that Teta was treated as a scapegoat at Boston Latin, as like many of her supporters have contended.
“For someone to say that [Teta] was targeted — the only thing that was targeted was her inaction,” Williams said. During the meeting, he said “the environment at the school had grown racially toxic and it was time for her to step down.”
Williams said he would want black community leaders to offer insight into the national search for the new Boston Latin headmaster. He said the school’s next leader should be “someone that has a track record at dealing with racial and diversity issues.”
Teta resigned Tuesday following a February investigation by the Boston Public Schools into several racial incidents that took place under her leadership. The issues came to light after two students posted a YouTube video in Martin Luther King Jr. Day in January criticizing Boston Latin administrators for taking complaints of racism lightly.
Although six of those incidents were handled appropriately, according to the investigation, a seventh one was not properly addressed by the school administration.
In that case deemed mishandled, a boy called a black female student a racial slur and threatened to lynch her while holding up an electrical cord.
Peterson said that Teta’s assertion in her resignation letter that her school’s efforts to change were unfairly judged was “absolutely unfair and false,” and that no one interfered with the district’s investigation. A separate investigation by US Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz’s office remains open.
Chang said Tuesday that Teta’s resignation was “a personal decision.” He said he was grateful for Teta’s “work over the past several months to build a welcoming and inclusive climate for all students and staff at Boston Latin,” according to a statement by Boston Public Schools.
The Urban League, New Democracy Coalition, and several other civic groups met with Walsh in March to discuss the issues at Boston Latin and the greater school district, Peterson said. He said the common view at the time was that Teta should be removed as headmaster. The NAACP had also called for her termination.